Bassem Hassan receives the Allen Distinguished Investigator Award

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Bassem Hassan, a lead researcher at the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moëlle épinière - ICM (Brain and Spine Institute) in Paris, received the Allen Distinguished Investigator Award on March 23, 2016. This award given by the the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group funds cutting-edge research in high-risk, high-reward scenarios.

The ceremony took place during a press conference at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, with the participation of Microsoft co-founder and Philanthropist Paul G. Allen, National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone and French Ambassador Gerard Araud. After the press conference, a reception was then organized at the Residence of France in honor of Dr. Hassan.

About Bassem Hassan

Bassem Hassan is a world renowned neuroscientist. After completing his PhD in molecular genetics at the University of Ohio in 1996, he joined Baylor College of Medecine in Houston. He then carried out research as both a senior group leader at the VIB Center for the Biology of Disease (Leuven, Belgium) and a professor at the Center for Human Genetics (Cambridge, United Kingdom) until 2015. He received the EMBO “Young Investigator” award in 2003, and was elected as a member of this institution in 2009. He also was awarded the “Einstein Visiting Fellow” award for 2016 to 2018 at the University of Berlin and the NeuroCure cluster.

In January 2016, he joined the 25 existing teams working at ICM following a call for applicants that was made in the spring of 2013. He was selected from an highly competitive international pool of 83 applications, 90% of which came from outside of France. ICM offers an innovative solution for researchers and doctors alike, by regrouping them with patients. The result is an institution which provides the best conditions for creating and delivering new remedies for nervous system damage and illness.

Bassem Hassan and his team are researching the genetic mechanisms that control the early stages of development of the nervous system: the specialization of stem cells and the formation of neural networks. They are also working on the mechanics behind some neural diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The Paul G. Allen Foundation

Paul Allen is the 57th richest person in the world and has pledged to donate most of his 16 billion dollar fortune to charities. As of today, his lifelong donations amount to over 2 billion dollars, of which about one quarter has gone to the Brain Science Institute which he also founded.

His foundation identifies and rewards scientists who stood out because of their innovative or unconventional approach to certain topics. Paul Allen believes that risk-taking should be rewarded, especially in research, in order for breakthroughs to happen. In order to help researchers move forward with their ideas, the Allen Distinguished Investigator Award award includes a grant that supports high-risk projects which may be less likely to be funded by traditional programs.

The grant awarded to Dr. Hassan amounts to 1.5 million dollars over three years, and will allow him and his team to try and solve how variations in individual neural circuits influence individual behavioral traits.

For more information

- Press release of the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moëlle épinière
- Press release of the Allen Institute
- Presentation of Bassem Hassan’s research project